The 72 most cheering things I learned on my book tour

SEPTEMBER 2016 Newsletter

Since my book How To Thrive In the Next Economy was published – a year ago this week – I’ve had conversations about it at forty talks and workshops. With thanks to my diverse but always generous hosts, this email is to share the 72 most interesting and cheering things that I learned along the way. …

VALUE

1    My talks proposed a simple theory of value: the health of living systems, including human ones, is paramount. Money and GDP are secondary indicators of progress, at best. Nobody disagreed. So that’s that sorted.

2    For the theologian Ina Praetorius, what’s emerging is a care-centered economy.

3    Dougald Hine says we’re in a shift from a transactional to a relational economy.

4    The Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si – with a target readership of 1.2 billion people – includes a whole chapter on ‘integral ecology’. Fritjof Capra celebrated Read More »

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Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It

Five years ago I obtained an extraordinary 736 page book called Lean Logic: A Dictionary For The Future and How To Survive It. Written over a thirty year period by the English ecologist David Fleming, the book had been published in a limited edition after the author’s untimely death. Now, thanks to an heroic, expert and loving effort by editor Shaun Chamberlin and publisher Chelsea Green, Lean Logic has now been published in a slightly (628 pages) shorter form.
The text below is my original review.

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The publisher describes it as a “community of essays”. In my words it’s half encyclopedia, half commonplace book, half a secular bible, half survival guide, half … yes, that’s a lot of halves, but I hope you get the picture. I have never encountered a book that is so hard to characacterise yet so hard, despite its weight, to Read More »

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Biennials and system change

I was invited to give a keynote in Milan to the general assembly of the International Biennials Association. My talk was called Life’s Work: Biennials and Regeneration. Here below is a summary:

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The sad-looking structure above was the Dutch Pavilion not long after the Hannover World Expo ended in 2000.

Having helped to write the brief, I know first-hand that the Expo team hoped for a different outcome. The very essence of the Dutch pavilion was supposed to be sustainability, innovation, and long-term progress.

So what went wrong? Why do so many expos, festivals and biennials promise to change the world for the better – only to end up as trash?

A short answer: Many big-ticket events are thinly disguised real-estate plays in a world that is over-built. Pavilions, stadia and museums are too often conceived as ‘antenna buildings’ whose task is to attract attention to hitherto cheap land – and raise its price.

Looking forward, biennials have a more transformative role to play as Read More »

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“Back To The Wildebeest In Us” (in French)

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The Belgian magazine Rekto Verso recently ran a review of my book by Mia Vaerman (in Dutch) with the title “Terug naar het wildebeest in ons” (“Back To The Wildebeest In Us”). That piece has now been translated into French by Annelies Hollewand and Adrian Gandolfo – to whom, many thanks.

Redécouvrir notre côté sauvage

On attache trop d’importance à nos réflections / pensées et pas assez à nos intuitions / sentiments, argumente le philosophe Brittanique JT dans How to Thrive in the Next Economy, livre plein Read More »

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A beehive is not a factory: Rethinking the modular

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I was invited to write the Preface to Rethinking The Modular: Adaptable Systems in Architecture and Design edited by Burkhard Meltzer and Tido von Oppeln. As the book has just been published, here follows my text:

Back to the Present

Trumpeted as ‘the most significant innovation in beekeeping since 1852’, the Flow Hive  was pitched to a crowd-funding site in 2015 as the bee keeper’s dream product.

‘Turn the tap and watch as pure, fresh, clean honey flows right out of the hive and into your jar’ gushed the website; ‘No mess, no fuss, no expensive equipment – and all without disturbing the bees’.

Helped by glowing reviews in Forbes, Wired, and Fast Company, Flow Hive’s pitch on Indiegogo worked like a dream; having sought $70,000 to launch the product, more than $6 million had been committed on Indiegogo at the time of writing.

Too good to be true? Sadly, yes.

As news of Flow Hive spread, natural beekeepers described Flow Hive’s approach as ‘battery farming for bees’. Read More »

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And my killer project of all is…. (interview with @tbonini)

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My  interview with @tbonini has ben  published in Italian at Che Fara.Here is the English version:

Q  Among the many case histories that you brilliantly discovered and reported in your book, is there someone that you believe is extremely central in planning the “tomorrow’s world”?

The sheer variety of projects and initiatives out there is,  for me, the main story. No single project is the magic acorn that will grow into a mighty oak tree. We need to think more like a forest than a single tree! If you look at healthy forests, they are extremely diverse—and we’re seeing a healthy level of diversity in social innovation all over the world.  These edge projects and networks, when you add them together, replace the fear that has so hampered the environmental movement.  Read More »

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Why messy cities are more modern

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(Pic: Being Nicely Messy, CRIT, Mumbai) In London, I did this interview with Midtown Big Ideas Exchange:

Q   Do you believe cities are rational or organized and, if so, what makes them this way?

A    Cities are often conceived in a rational way but usually take on a non-rational life of their own – and thank goodness for that. The spatial grid of New York, for example, co-exists with a bewildering array of unofficial activities at street level. The same goes for Mumbai; her city map looks clear enough – but it does not equip the visitor to understand the apparent chaos of daily life on the ground. The best cities combine both: Read More »

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Healthcare in the Next Economy

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Last month I gave a talk at 
UC Berkeley School of Public Health, as part of the Dean’s Lecture Series, with the title, From Biomedicine to Bioregion: The Geographies of a Care-Based Economy. The video of that talk is here. My interview with Peter Jarrett, for their online journal Berkeley Wellness, is republished below.

The philosopher and writer John Thackara, a senior fellow at the Royal College of Art, in London, scours the world for examples of the ways social innovation can improve the health of communities, which he explores in his blog, doorsofperception.com. He recently spoke at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health about his new book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy. He explores the ways sometimes small steps can make a tremendous difference in solving some of the most intractable challenges in delivering health care.

What are the most serious challenges facing health care?

It’s a multi-dimensional crisis in which trillions of dollars are spent treating the symptoms of illness rather than its causes. Read More »

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No organism is truly autonomous – including us

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An interview with Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, the editor and publisher of STIR magazine.
 
Current and back issues of the magazine are available in the online shop

Jonny Gordon-Farleigh: Your new book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy, explores practical innovations in sustainability across the world. What stories would you pick out as the most instructive for the scale of change we need to see?

John Thackara: The sheer variety of projects and initiatives out there is, for me, the main story. No single project is the magic acorn that will grow into a mighty oak tree. We need to think more like a forest than a single tree! If you look at healthy forests, they are extremely diverse—and we’re seeing a healthy level of diversity in social innovation all over the world. Many people say we need to focus on solutions that scale, but to me that’s globalisation-thinking wearing a green coat. Every social and ecological context is unique, and the answers we seek will be based on an infinity of local needs. Read More »

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